On Friday, President Joe Biden decided not to raise former President Trump’s “historically low cap” of 15,000 refugees for this year. Biden’s announcement reverses his stance on the issue, having recently promised to raise the cap to 125,000 refugees for the year.
Instead, Biden removed the restrictions put in place by the Trump administration on which “types” of refugees qualify under the cap of 15,000.
In “Memorandum for the Secretary of State on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021,” the order reads, “The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest. Should 15,000 admissions under the revised allocations for FY 2021 be reached prior to the end of the fiscal year and the emergency refugee situation persists, a subsequent Presidential Determination may be issued to increase admissions, as appropriate.”
In early February, the Independent reported that “President Joe Biden said during a speech at the State Department on Thursday he would bolster US refugee admissions after four years of deep cuts, seeking to raise the annual admissions cap to 125,000 people. That’s a more than 700 per cent increase from the Trump administration’s previous targets for the year.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration hasn’t ruled out “revisiting” this issue if the 15,000 cap is reached.
The focus of Biden’s policy now rests on the definition of refugee status. The Associated Press reported, “A senior administration official said Biden’s new allocations could result in speedier admissions of already screened and vetted refugees in a manner of days. The new allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and lift Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.”
The Associated Press added that “Refugee resettlement agencies were disheartened Biden did not touch Trump’s cap, the lowest since the program began 41 years ago.”
“It sends an important message to make it higher and now Biden will still be presiding over and has essentially put his stamp of approval on the lowest refugee admissions cap in history at a time of global crisis,” said Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish nonprofit that is one of nine agencies that resettles refugees in the U.S.
Responding to Biden’s decision, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the policy as “completely and utterly unacceptable.”
“Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.”
“Keep your promise,” she added.
Completely and utterly unacceptable. Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise.
Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.
Keep your promise. https://t.co/A82xYf1XpR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 16, 2021
Rep. Ilhan Omar also condemned the policy, saying “There are simply no excuses for today’s disgraceful decision.”
“It goes directly against our values and risks the lives of little boys and girls huddled in refugee camps around the world,” Omar continued, adding, “I know, because I was one.”
There are simply no excuses for today’s disgraceful decision.
It goes directly against our values and risks the lives of little boys and girls huddled in refugee camps around the world.
I know, because I was one.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 16, 2021
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